MAYVILLE – Another local official is taking precautionary action as the noval coronavirus global pandemic continues to grow, particularly in New York State.
Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson announced on his official District Attorney’s Facebook page Tuesday that he has taken steps to protect his staff and, ultimately, the community in order to reduce the spread of the virus. Swanson tells WNYNewsNow that he has separated his staff into groups so that, in the event a member of the staff is infected or quarantined, they can still have people come in.
“We separated our staff,” Swanson said. “They’re coming in on days in an effort to ensure that we can continue to function here as cases come in.”
“We can only do what we can do, but we have taken necessary steps to ensure that this office continues to be open and functioning.”
Swanson, when asked how is office is handling the crisis from a morale standpoint, said his staff is in a state of “acceptance, disbelief and uncertainty.”
“We’re dealing with a set of circumstances that, in anybody’s life that works here in this office, is unprecedented,” Swanson said. “What I expect to see is things continue to change and evolve that will affect our day to day lives. Hopefully, people are making the appropriate adjustments so we can handle this the best possible way we can.”
“As the District Attorney, I felt like I had the responsibilty to make sure our office is able to function.” Swanson adds that changes were made Monday morning.
Swanson says the court system also recently made “significant” adjustments in the wake of the pandemic. The county’s top prosecutor says that any people arrested throughout Chautauqua County will be arraigned in Chautauqua County Court. He adds that his office will have a prosecutor available for all of the arraignments.
Swanson says he is having victim’s coordinators placed on a rotating schedule in order to meet the needs of victims. A secretarial assistant will be in the office to open case files as they come in, and investigators can do most of the work at home, according to Swanson.
“Fortunately, as we prepared for the discovery changes that this year brought, we went to mostly digital case files,” Swanson said. “We are able to do a significant amount of work from home.”
Swanson says cases are being adjourned further into the future, which he says “helps,” but once the situation stablilizes, he says the courts could see a “backlog.”
The following is Swanson’s full statement from Tuesday:
“As we continue to brace for the anticipated spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), my office will continue to be open and operational. Please understand that public health and safety continues to be our first priority and the Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office will remain open throughout this crisis to provide as many services as possible while still abiding by Governor Cuomo’s mandates.”
“I have taken steps in separating the staff so that in the event illness or required quarantine forces some to stay home, other staff will be available to fill in. I will continue to inform the public of the most up-to-date information available relating to the operations of the criminal justice system. Stay safe and healthy, spend time with your family and please reach out to those who are shut-in within our community.”